Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Has the Marketing Research Industry Recovered?

In much of 2008 and early 2009, I frequently wrote about the impact of the recession on marketing research. There were many clear signs that the industry was experiencing reduced revenues. By the middle of 2009, things appeared to be turning around. I believe we are approaching full recovery. There are many positive signs:

  • The Research Industry Index (RII) experienced a strong increase for the first quarter of 2010.
  • I was just in Boston for the MRA Annual Conference. The mood was very different from a year ago. Instead of talks of surviving or downsizing; people seemed energized, confident and excited. Other positive signs – the conference set a record for first time attendees and the exhibit hall was completely sold out.
  • Our own company has seen a steady flow of projects from a diverse group of verticals. Yes, clients are still cautious, but they are spending.

Are you seeing the same turnaround?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hope to See You in Boston!

I am headed to Boston early next week for the MRA’s Annual Research Conference. I have to admit bias, since I sit on the MRA board, but the educational content and speakers for this conference are outstanding. I truly believe this conference outshines all other industry conferences when it comes to the opportunity to learn.

While people go to conferences for many reasons, educational content is frequently a second thought. At most conferences, you usually see large numbers of people milling around in the exhibit hall or refreshment areas instead of attending the educational sessions. Not true for the MRA conference. People are in the educational sessions. They are taking a lot of notes and asking many questions. In other words, they are learning.

Hopefully you have registered and plan to be at the conference. If not, it’s probably too late for most of you. But if you live in the Northeast, a last minute registration is still feasible. You really should be there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Did Sharp test this ad?

If you have watched much TV lately, you have probably seen the ad for Sharp Quattron technology. They are using this technology as a major point of differentiation for Sharp televisions. Basically, it adds the color yellow to the standard television RGB colors of red, green and blue. They claim the addition of yellow helps create a vast array of colors that you can’t see on your current TV’s three color technology. So far, this sounds like a great improvement. But this is where I wonder if they did any market research. I am watching the commercial on my current TV and I am seeing this vast array of colors that they just told me I can’t see. I just don’t get it.

As a side note, if you are a Star Trek junkie, the commercial features George Takai. It even includes his signature line of “oh my”.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Airline Satisfaction

I recently had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Glastonbury, CT. It is not an easy place to get to from the west coast. It required a flight to Chicago, then a connection to Hartford. So round trip, I had 4 separate flights.

On this particular trip, I flew United. It is obvious that they are putting renewed emphasis on customer service. While I am happy to see that the flight attendants are a bit friendlier than in the past, I haven’t seen many other changes. I’m hoping this is a harbinger of things to come. Their renewed effort is also clear since I now get an invitation to complete a customer satisfaction survey after every trip.

I am always excited to see research play a role in any customer initiatives. However, I am wondering about their approach. When I entered the survey, they showed me the four legs of my trip. Rather than randomly assign me a leg to evaluate, they let me pick one. This approach is probably good from a customer perspective. After all, if I only had issues with one leg, but I was asked about a different one, I would be frustrated that they did not let me tell them about the flight with issues. By letting the customer pick the leg to evaluate, results probably skew toward those flights that caused some dissatisfaction. Likewise, for customers who had no issues, they are more likely to pick the leg where they had the best experience. This means United doesn’t really get a representative score card. I suspect they know that. This customer satisfaction survey is probably more about giving the customer a chance to be heard. Secondarily, it gives United a report on problem areas.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Research Industry Index (RII)

As some of you may know, I author the RII report for the MRA. I was very excited to report a strong gain for the index at the close of 2009. This is very encouraging news for our industry. A copy of the press release is available at Equally exciting is the growing number of industry leaders who are now participating in the quarterly survey. The RII has one of the largest and most diverse respondent bases of any industry surveys.

Invitations to participate in the next wave of the survey will be going out soon. If you already participate, I thank you and encourage you to continue. If you do not participate, I strongly encourage you to do so. As an added perk, only survey participants receive as copy of the full report. The survey is restricted to business owners or high level executives of research companies and end users.

Personally, I feel good about 2010. I hope the next RII report proves I am correct.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Market Based Pricing

I have been purchasing Girl Scout cookies for almost as long as I have worked in marketing research. So last week when a friend told me her daughter was selling the cookies, I placed my order for six boxes – at $4.00 a box. Like many people, I grumbled that the prices keep increasing and the package sizes keep decreasing. But that was about the end of my snit. Then I happened to mention the cookies to a friend of mine in Colorado. I was shocked to discover Girl Scout cookies sell for $3.25 in Colorado.

Yes that is correct - the Girl Scouts have adopted market based pricing. So like most other products and services, Californians pay a premium to buy the cookies. I am still a bit surprised by this, but I also admire their marketing savviness. After some exploring, I discovered this is a $700 million annual business. This brand has rapidly embraced many new forms of marketing, such as E-vites , YouTube and Facebook . And because the economy is hurting their sales this year, they are using one of the strongest marketing tactics possible – nostalgia (while reducing the average box size by one ounce).

They must be doing something right. While sales are down close to 20% in some parts of the country, they are running 9% ahead of last year in Northern California.

How much did you pay for cookies this year?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thank You Larry Brownell

As many of you know, Larry Brownell recently stepped down as CEO of the Marketing Research Association. Larry is an Association Management Professional, so he is not confined to the marketing research industry. He has accepted a CEO position in the film industry. This change in careers also gets him back on the west coast, where he has wanted to be for a long time.

While I spoke with Larry last week and personally thanked him for everything he did for the MRA, I also wanted to publicly thank him. He was the driving force behind much of MRA’s recent success. He was also instrumental in the development of two products very important to me – Professional Research Certification (PRC) and the Research Industry Index (RII). My first serious involvement with MRA was on the PRC task force. This is when I got to know Larry. He has a way of reeling you in, and over time convinced me to take on other volunteer roles within MRA. While I believe volunteering to help your profession is important, Larry played an important role in my decision to make MRA the place I volunteered. His professionalism, enthusiasm, and dedication are addicting.

So thank you Larry. And I’m ready to meet you for that Dim Sum the next time you get up to San Francisco.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thank you MRA!

I was recently honored by the Marketing Research Association, when they gave me the Shining Star Award at the First Outlook Conference and Expo in San Diego. This particular award is bestowed on an MRA member who has provided outstanding volunteer efforts at the national level for five or more years. Winning this award puts me in the company of many of my esteemed colleagues such as Amy Shields, Elisa Galloway and Kim Larson. The complete list of past winners can be found at

I have always felt that it is important to give back to our industry. It is that belief that drives me to volunteer for great organizations such as the MRA. I encourage each of you to get involved as a volunteer with the MRA or any other professional organization that you deem worthy of your efforts. While recognition such as the Shining Star Award is great, it is just a symbol. My true reward has been the friends I have made over the years as a volunteer, the opportunities it has given me for personal development, and the knowledge that I have done good for the industry.

Thank you again MRA!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Card

If you are one of the many people on our snail mail list, you probably received our company holiday card. For those of you not familiar with our cards, they have featured a research snowman for the past 7 years. We put great effort into coming up with a new idea every year.

Based on the responses we have received, I think this year's card is our best so far. We have received many positive comments. If you want to take a look at this card, and the entire snowman saga, visit

My thanks to Brenden Mendoza, our stellar designer, for a great job!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thank you!

About this time last year, I wrote in my blog that I would be happy to see 2008 go. But I also wrote that things were looking promising for 2009. I’m happy to report that 2009 was indeed a good year for us. Business started picking back up in the first quarter and continued to grow throughout the year. To that end, I would like to thank our employees, clients, vendors, family and friends. Your combined efforts and support made 2009 a good year for us.

At this point, 2010 is looking good, and I am hearing other researchers say the same thing. But I’ll still exercise a lot of caution - holding back on new hires or other expenditures until we are sure things are completely back. I hope 2010 is a good year for all of us.

Some of you have asked where I have been with my postings. Fortunately, I have truly been too busy. But I promise to try to post more regularly next year.

Have a safe and happy holiday.